Archive for December 10th, 2017

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Kyiv protests – What are the demands?

December 10, 2017

Sunday 10th December witnessed several thousand people protest in Kyiv.  The estimates seen by the blog vary as to the number, anywhere from 2,500 to 7,000.

To be blunt there is no surprise at the wide range of “guesstimate”.

There are several methods commonly used to estimate crowd sizes none of which are ever going to be exact, and some estimators will be more accurate than others depending upon their assessment of crowd density over a certain area and whether it is done by eye or by electronic means.  This before any massaging for political effect in certain cases.

Whatever the case, it is fair to say there were several thousand people in attendance.

The protest was called by the currently incarcerated (though probably not for long as the previous entry outlined) Misha Saakashvili.

Whether or not all were present to support Mr Saakashvili, or whether some were there to support the raisons d’être rather than Mr Saakashvili himself is a question only those attending could answer.

So what were the raisons d’être proclaimed for the holding of the protest?  If a reader does not support Mr Saakashvili, would they still have attended to support the stated causes?

The demands of the demonstration, insofar as officially given by the organisers, were the passing of an impeachment law, the introduction of legislation to create specialised and independent anti-corruption courts, to insure the second reading of (and pass) the new Electoral Code statute, and the last requirement was the resignation of Prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko.

So, to address these requirements in the order above, what are the chances of the final plenary session of the year, 19th – 22nd December, accommodating them – particularly with the Bills already slated for that period?

There will be other issues upon the agenda already.

Such are the competing power dynamics and issues of constitutional accountability, any impeachment law would stand far more chance of passing through the Verkhovna Rada if The Bankova saw such legislation accompanied by legislation removing the current (almost absolute) parliamentary immunity enjoyed and abused by the nation’s parliamentarians.

In short a mutual weakening in immunity.

The majority of parliamentarians are in no rush to remove such immunity – whatever rhetoric they may employ to the contrary.  It seems probable that even if they voted to remove their own immunity now, it would be so written that it came into effect only after the Verkhovna Rada elections of October 2019.  That being so, any presidential impeachment law would probably also have an “effective date” of after the March 2019 presidential elections, if not exactly the same date as changes to parliamentary immunity.  Quid pro quo.

That said, even with an impeachment law, the bar is necessarily set high before an impeachment can occur – and that does not necessarily mean a president is removed.  For example both US Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached, but neither removed from office.  Richard Nixon was never impeached, but resigned.

That parliamentarians should have limits placed on their immunity, and that there should be an impeachment law relating to a president is certainly reasonable considering historical abuses, any current shenanigans, and future temptations.

In order to frame the impeachment law to generate far greater, indeed almost unjiversal public traction, its submission with the legislation to severely curtail parliamentary immunity is perhaps wiser.

The introduction of legislation relating to the creation of independent anti-corruption courts perhaps should be expected during the final plenary week of the year following the blunt diplomacy on the evening of 6th December as previously stated.  Nevertheless, The Bankova plan will be to slow the process sufficiently that any new anti-corruption court will not be fully functional prior to the 2019 elections.  That “glacial plan” will not be short of support within the Verkhovna Rada.

It was something of a surprise that the first reading of the new Electoral Code passed.  It found the exact minimum required 226 votes.

Perhaps its passing was the result of one of those miscalculations by certain party leaders who will witness their power subsequently diminish should these legislative changes be made.  Nevertheless there is no real reason the second reading should not occur – the important caveat is whether 226 votes can be found a second time?

No doubt there are a few powerful party people that would like to see serious sabotage by way of amendment prior to a second reading, or alternatively simply delay a second vote long enough to make its implementation prior to the 2019 elections simply impractical if it is passed.

Ergo those seeking to have the law passed at its second reading during the last plenary session of the year will have to be absolutely sure that the required votes are there – both theoretically and physically when the time comes.  Can that be assured for the plenary week beginning 19th December?

It is one thing to force the matter onto the plenary agenda, but perhaps quite another to be certain of 226 assenting votes being in the session hall.

The last demand for the resignation of Yuri Lutsenko will not find the required parliamentary traction before the year end.

The Bankova will have to feel far more uncomfortable than it does now to sacrifice Mr Lutsenko considering the immense effort it took to appoint him in the role in the first place.

Regarding the issue of his resignation, the opinion of the blog is already on record before the latest Saakashvili related incidents.

Further, even if Mr Lutsenko resigned willingly, it is not necessarily the case that his resignation would be accepted.  This is perhaps a little theatre for the future, but possibly not in time for the Christmas pantomime season.

Thus, one of the demands of the protesters will probably be met – and probably would have been met regardless of the protest occurring – that of anti-corruption court legislation being submitted.  A fully functioning court however, is perhaps unlikely before 2020 due to political expediency.

The second reading of the Electoral Law perhaps should not really occur until and unless those that support it can be absolutely certain that they have the minimum 226 votes in the same place and at the same time to get it through.  A self-inflicted failure is to be avoided if at all possible.  It is a question both they and the demonstrators will have to consider before forcing the matter onto the agenda – if they can force it onto the agenda between 19 – 22 December.

To be entirely objective with due consideration to the balance of powers, it is very unlikely that any impeachment law will pass without simultaneous attention to the severe curtailing of parliamentary immunity (and current impunity).  If and when that occurs, expect an “effective date” to be after any elections in 2019.

The forcible removal/resignation of Mr Lutsenko is not likely to occur particularly quickly.

Nevertheless, it is no bad thing that there are still thousands willing to be seen to protest.  It pays to have the political class keep a wary eye upon the electorate.

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